There was significant build-up to the trustees’ March 15 work session with a return to the contentious topic of Main Street closures. In 2020, responding to pandemic-induced capacity restrictions for restaurants, the town opted to limit traffic on the “300 Block,” between Third Street and Fourth Street, and completely close the road to motorized vehicles in the evenings.
Then, in 2021, with the pandemic ongoing and outdoor dining remaining favorable, the 300 Block closure narrowed to Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Outdoor seating was also allowed to expand into two adjacent parking spaces, with the permission of adjacent businesses.
This time around, an online petition (www.bit.ly/MainStreetPetition) gathered nearly 300 signatures before the meeting, asking trustees to maintain Wednesday through Saturday evening closures. Many comments asked for even more expansive closures, covering more days of the week and blocks of Main Street.
Attending the meeting were several Main Street business owners, representing “the other side,” as stated by Brass Anvil owner Ryan Sweeney.
“[In 2020], we as a business community came together and said, ‘We don’t want to see anybody fail,’” said Sweeney. Many businesses see the continuation of a 300 Block closure as unfair. While voicing support for community “activations,” Sweeney suggested a more neutral place for such events, like Fourth Street where farmer’s markets already occur and no businesses stand to gain or lose particularly more than others.
Identifying First Fridays as one of Carbodnale’s gems, mayor Dan Richardson cautioned that more regular Main Street closures “may take a little bit of the shine off that gem,” normalizing what is historically a special occasion.
Ultimately, discussion among trustees favored returning to a 2014 ordinance that allows for curbside dining. “Let’s go back to where we were pre-COVID, everybody supported that,” said trustee Heather Henry. Then, “not under the duress of a deadline,” allow for “healthier dialogue in a safe space, not ‘under the gun.’”
“Maximum vibrancy for the acceptable level of impact,” summarized Richardson.
Because this was a work session, no official decision could be made.
Trustees also heard from Quinn Donnelly, project engineer for RiverRestoration, on the Crystal River Restoration Project. The goals are to enhance a one-mile stretch of river and surrounding 18-acre riparian zone called Riverfront Park. River access is another priority and the town will improve efficiency at the Weaver Ditch headgate and diversion.
With Mountain Whitefish populations in decline in the Crystal River, as explained by Donnelly, in-stream work is scheduled to be the least disruptive as possible. After putting the project out to bid, a crew can begin mobilizing to work in-stream in late June, once water levels drop. By August, they will be required to move on to out-of-stream work.
Next, consultant Bob Schultz gave an overview of two town properties: the parking lot just east of Town Hall where leaf collection occurs, and the recently donated Town Center lots surrounding the Thunder River Theatre. Both lots are zoned “historic commercial core,” which requires that a building’s street-facing frontage be commercial, somewhat limiting options for developing the properties.
The Town Center lots housed around 80 people as Bonanza Trailer Park until it was purchased in 2001 and soon after scraped. Assessed at $60 per square foot, the gifted properties’ monetary value is approximately $3.7 million.
Schultz counted that some 240 parking spaces will disappear as downtown undeveloped commercial land is built on. He floated the possibility of installing a parking garage at the lot east of Town Hall, noting the town would need to plan an alternate location for Christmas tree and leaf collection, as well as hazardous waste day.
Finally, trustees heard from representatives of the Youth and Family Advisory Council, tasked with advising the town on making use of money collected through tobacco and marijuana taxes. Working with a budget of more than $200,000, the group offered three goals, each with several strategic proposals: increase access to evidence-based prevention, intervention and treatment; increase protective factors in the community, by mapping places where youth feel welcome, for example; and supporting professional development on topics like mental wellness.